by Max Brantley
Joe Nocera, writing in the New York Times about the sex abuse case rocking Penn State, is unstinting in his criticism of the school and Paterno for its failures, particularly in an area that had already been rocked by Catholic church sex abuse. But he takes it to another abusive aspect of big-time college athletics — its exaltation of money above all else, including, at Penn State, even raped children. (We could add sexually abused women to that score at an uncountable number of institutions, including, on past inglorious occasions, the University of Arkansas.)
Big-time college football requires grown men to avert their eyes from the essential hypocrisy of the enterprise. Coaches take home multimillion-dollar salaries, while the players who make them rich don’t even get “scholarships” that cover the full cost of attending college. They push their “student-athletes” to take silly courses that won’t get in the way of football. When players are seriously injured and can no longer play, their coaches often yank their scholarships, forcing them to drop out of school.
“College football and men’s basketball has drifted so far away from the educational purpose of the university,” James Duderstadt, a former president of the University of Michigan, told me recently. “They exploit young people and prevent them from getting a legitimate college education. They place the athlete’s health at enormous risk, which becomes apparent later in life. We are supposed to be developing human potential, not making money on their backs. Football strikes at the core values of a university.”
Protecting profits is the real core value of big-time sports, Nocera writes.
The Penn State disaster has value if it would cause all of the U.S. to examine precisely this failing. I doubt it will be subject of much discussion at tailgates today.
Hat tip to Nate Allen, writing in the Democrat-Gazette today, about the increasing secrecy surrounding the money machine at Fayetteville that is the athletic department. The secrecy means lack of accountability and this, in turn, is a breeding ground for events such as Penn State is now experiencing. Wish I could give you a link to read it.